No skate-punk from the '80s hasn't heard of The Faction. They were the epitome of skate-punk. Hell, they even had a pro skater in the band! You seldom could read an issue of Thrasher without some mention of them and for my skater friends and me, "Skate and Destroy" was our anthem and way of life. In their short career, the band graced the punk rock world with only a small handful of records, but it was quality over quantity. They fizzled out, as most bands of that era did, leaving the fans yearning for a reunion and more material. Well, our wishes have finally come true! The Faction returns in 2002 with new material. This interview was done via IM with Gavin O'Brien, lead singer. Gavin was really fun to talk to and a very friendly person, this was one of the more enjoyable interviews I have done. Enjoy it.
What came first for you, the skateboarding or the punk rock?
Skateboarding in 1969. My brother Corey and I shared a thick wood board with metal wheels.
How old were you then?
I was born in '64, So I was 5. I discovered Punk in '78 when I heard Devo. Thanks in part to SkateBoarder Magazine. The Ramones and Pistols followed and I was through with the Status Quo from then on out.
So what made you decide to form a punk rock band, where did you guys all meet? School?
I met Stevie at Campbell Skate Park. We were locals at Winchester
Skate Park, and Campbell. After those parks were closed, we built a ramp in
Stevie's backyard in 1981. Soon after that, Stevie was forming a band and asked
me to sing. We all knew each other because of our dedication to skateboarding...even
at that time, when the sport was dead in the water. We refused to quit. The
rebellious attitude always prevails.
At what point did steve become a pro skater? Was he already then, or did that come later?
He was already pro. I think he turned pro in 1980? I could be wrong. It's funny, but back then, The Faction started getting press BECAUSE Stevie was a pro skateboarder. In the Bay Area at the time, all the other bands resented us because of the free publicity. Also, skateboarding was not exactly the "Official Sport Of Punk Rock" back then. It was still viewed by punks as a jock activity, and so we were seen as suburban jocks from the most hated, suburban, and biggest city in Northern California; San Jose.
When did the marriage of punk/skating happen? I always thought of it as the punk sport as punk is what got me into skating actually back then.
It probably happened a lot sooner in Southern California, but for the Bay Area, I'd have to say 1980-81. Skateboarders were all into heavy rock FM stadium junk before Duane Peters, Steve Alba, Steve Olson, and Tony Alva clued us all in. Jay Adams helped out as well.
Who came up with the name for The Faction, and why?
Well, we were part of this northern California gang, I guess, called The Faction. It wasn't like the LADS in L.A. or anything, it was more like skateboarders sharing terrain information. We had members in San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, and even Sacramento. It was a spin-off in a much larger scale of the old San Jose Pool Exchange. When the band first practiced on Halloween day of 1982, we didn't have a name. We asked the guy who formed The Faction if we could just use that name and he was stoked.
Now, in one lineup of the band, you were in the band with a member who stole your woman! How the hell did you manage to play in a band with him after that?!
Oh yeah. He's STILL in the band today! Keith and I are tight. Back then we stuck together after that whole episode. So here's the story: I was at practice with my then girl, who I loved. She was a stunner. I just went to a party a couple months ago and this random guy from back then wouldn't stop talking about her. "She was the raddest girl at our school! The jocks were pissed when you hooked up with her!", etc. My girlfriend today was pissed! Anyway she was hot. We tried out Keith to be the drummer, and he made it. None of us knew him because he was a couple years younger and was from across town. Anyway, the next DAY my girl disappears with him for like, 12 hours. I broke up with her that night because I don't mess about like that, know what I mean. Keith starts in with her and I was fine with it because I had a plan to split them up and it worked pissing her off REALLY BAD. Keith and I are best buds, but the girl is long gone.
So with all the press you were getting being skaters and all, was the decision to release the first single yourselves by choice or necessity? I mean there was no shortage of labels in CA releasing punk.
No, we decided to do it because we had someone who was willing to front the cash to release it. And that person wanted then guitarist Adam to form his own label and get the experience. It worked out well like that. We NEVER even thought of shopping any of our recordings around. Back then you did it yourself, or you were so damn good that Posh Boy swooped you up!
Who was that magic benefactor who fronted the cash?
Adam's mom, Rita, who I love to this day. She was a gem of a mom! So supportive. I hope I can be half the dad she was as a mom.
So he pressed up 1000 of Yesterday is Gone". Did you just sell them at shows or did you get them distributed? How long did it take to sell through them all?
We had them distributed here and there. I think Jem in Berkeley was one of them? We sold a lot through the US Mail, at shows, at local Bay Area shops. It took about nine months to sell them through.
Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that it would become
a punk rock collectable?
Heck no. Personally, I only like Dark Room. The rest of it is rushed, has really poor mixes, poor art work. I'm picky. When Goldenrod asked us to do the Collection CD, I told them it was cool, but I had to have 100% creative control in the art work area. I saw No Hidden Messages at a local store a few months ago going for $45!
Speaking of that LP, how long after the 7" did you go in and do the LP?
About six months. What a pile of crap that is! And I only say
that because when we played live, everyone told us we had a great sound and
were tight as a drum. But our first two records were rushed, rookie efforts.
Our new stuff is hard, crunchy, and mean.
Was the plethora of vinyl colors done for fun, or as an attempt to drive collectors like me crazy in their quest for completion?
Uh, it was done for fun. We never thought anyone would try to collect that stuff. We are all very proud of the vinyl we put out, as far as the song writing goes, but we all wish the mixing and mastering were a lot better. That's one of the reasons we're doing 6 new songs now. We're gonna show everyone that we can put out great tracks in the production arena. That's the main reason we are re-recording "Skate & Destroy" for the new EP that's coming out. And yes, it'll be on vinyl as well!
So after the LP was made, Adam booked a tour of the states.
Did you go alone or take another band with you? Were you headlining or getting
on other's shows where you could? And lastly, who had the foresight to keep
a document of every show you played? That is amazing that you have that info!
We toured the US the first time in the summer of '84. It was all alone. We took another San Jose band with us on the '85 US tour, The Drab, and that was even better. We headlined almost all of those shows. On both tours, we were support for other bands at CBGB's, and they told us that if we came back in '86, we'd definitely headline. But we had to go and split up! I was the one who kept records of every show we did. I don't know why I did it, I just did.
I can't think of any other band from that time that saved such information
Me either. I get so many comments about that. I'm glad I did it, for sure.
Any chance you took photos too? I'd love to acquire some copies of any photo's taken at Keith Garage
No. We didn't have a camera, and we never thought of doing that. Adam has a lot of local photos of us, though. A lot of them are on the cover of the Epitaph EP.
Damn! So after that, you recorded Dark Room?
Yeah. We had Stevie move to rhythm guitar, and we got Ray Stevens from the recently split up Los Olvidados to play bass. Keith left the band and we got Bosch who was our original drummer for the first couple practices we had. Dark Room was like a quest for us. We wanted to show the scene that we were capable of recording and mixing much better than we had in the past, plus Ray was slapping the bass now, and at the time Craig was a very technical drummer. I tried to actually sing where prior to that I was just screaming or yelling. I was really into writing lyrics back then, but I have always hated actually trying to sing. I'm not good at it at all, but I can make a really good fool of myself live!
Did you write all the lyrics?
Except for "Dark Room", I did write them all. When we started writing new songs for that album, Adam and a friend of his started writing lyrics for me to sing. I didn't like that, but I did it. I wrote most of the lyrics on Dark Room as well.
"Let's go Get Cokes" is an anthem for me and my fellow pepsi-haters!
Me too! I still love that song. I wrote it from the heart. Me and Mike Muir had sparring verbal bouts over that! He liked Pepsi, obviously. Poor sap. Pepsi is like liquid bubble gum. All sugar and no BITE!
Screw him, drinking pepsi was probably the reason that ST turned into a lame-ass metal band ;) Coke is the punk rock beverage!
In '85 after we did that song and released it, one of those
fuggn' hippy Crass "punks" in Santa Cruz confronted me in front of all these
people at a club over there that we were playing. He said "Do you realize Coca-Cola
supports apartheid (sp?) in South Africa?" And I said, "Hey, at least they're
not supporting Michael Jackson!" because at the time, Michael Jackson was doing
all their commercials. It's not The Real Thing ;)
So did Epitaph come out after you broke up? After doing
your own records for your whole career, how and why did you end up doing one
with Mystic of all people? What kind of deal did they give you.
Yes. We recorded it in the summer of '85, then we split up
at a Halloween party before it came out. Mystic approached us and said they
were doing "Skate Rock" bands on a sub-label of theirs called Thrash Records.
We didn't see a PENNY from that release, as a matter of fact all we got was
1 copy of it per band member. What a flaming pile of shite that deal was!
OK, so true to their reputation, they released a record and
coughed up nothing. You never saw the master tapes again? For on the Collection
CD, those songs were clearly lifted from the vinyl.
Yeah, if I remember right, Adam never got those tapes. Who knows if they still exist?
At the time, were you aware of Mystic's reputation?
No. I don't think we would have driven to Hollywood for the weekend and done it if I knew we were gonna get screwed that hard!
I thought perhaps you had this stuff you weren't going to do anything with and figured "what the hell" and let them have it. Did Adam or any of you ever try and contact them and get your tapes or some form of payment? And was there a contract you had to sign for that record?
Oh yeah. Adam was on 'em from what I heard. Nothing ever happened though. And that's funny because I don't remember any contract. We were just blown away someone was gonna record us and release an album! But once again, I saw it for the first time and was pissed because of the poor artwork. That was the last straw for me on that front. I like doing layout.
Didn't they also inscribe something in the run-off groove without
consulting you? A message?
I don't remember.
Why did you guys break up? Aside from Steve who kept skating, where did all go and what did you end up doing?
Well, there were personality conflicts. The last couple of
years, Adam really took control of everything. We were on his label, his song
writing, art work, he booked our shows. He worked his ass off, and I thank him
to this day. But there were times where it was too much. We split up on Halloween
night, 1985, exactly 3 years to the day that we formed. Halloween is our official
day in The Faction, that's part of the reason we have the bats. After the band
I worked at Sessions Skate Shop, then I went to work for my favorite company
at the time, Santa Cruz Skateboards, as the Team Manager. I got to travel the
world in that job, and it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot. Then I left Santa
Cruz to form my own company with my brother and two friends called Sonic Skateboards.
We had a great, great 5 years of ups and downs between '93 and '98, but we were
under financed and couldn't meet demand. Eventually our distributors and shops
around the world got tired of waiting and stopped ordering all together. Then
after that I went to work for my new favorite company, Apple Computer. I love
Apple and will never leave there.
Apple, WOW! What do you do there? I was a faithful mac user until last year when I switched to PC. The later years of my printed zine and all the stuff for my record label all were created on the mac.
I'm the world wide System Test Engineering manager. Basically, we test all the new computers we're thinking about building, and we try to break them. You need to switch back my friend
So, after many years of everything but Dark Room being out
of print and unavailable, how did the much needed, but sadly incomplete "Collection"
CD come to be?
Well, Mark Waters at Goldenrod Records called me with the idea. Everyone else agreed so we all contributed a list of songs we wanted and pounded that out. The thing is, it was never meant to be a complete collection. I named it "Collection" after The Stranglers album with the same name.
Ok, so then there was Collection 2, done by Adam. Did he consult the rest of the fellows Or did he just go ahead and put that out to sort of fill in the missing material?
Did this upset the rest of you?
Kind of. It was unfortunate, but it's his right as holder of all our old stuff. That's another reason we're moving on with our new stuff which is way better.
So the publishing and masters are his to do with what he pleases?
Yeah. He usually gives us a heads-up and is really good about keeping records of sales and sending us royalty checks. He's an entertainment lawyer in Las Vegas now!
And he also has a record label, AVD records. Why is he not in the band now? Do you not really get along, or is it cuz he lives in a different state?
Well, a little of both? He's doing his thing now and is fairly
successful from what I hear. The distance also comes into the equation.
So I read during the course of the '90s, the other guys wanted to reform the band, but you refused. Why were you so against it, and why the change of heart now?
Well, Los Olvidados, who were also from San Jose and are still the best band to ever come out of our city, (along with the Syndicate Of Sound in the '60's), reformed and played 2 shows in 2000. They picked up and kicked ass. I mean, these guys are one of the best bands ever. I have seen a billion bands, and not many are in the same league as Los O. Anyway, I called the guitar player, Mike Fox, who was also in The Dwarves after Los O broke up, and I told him it was time for Los Olvidados to release the CD that never came out, and take over the whole fucking world!
Los O! Perhaps the best band ever to not release a record! That stuff on Skate Rock Volume 1 is the shit! I made a cd of that tape comp just so i wouldn't wear it out listening to them and Drunk Injuns over and over again!
So he threw it back at ME and said the Faction had to start playing again! I was a little pissed he even mentioned it. I mean, I hate singing and I don't have time, etc. Their cd is out now!
Indeed, and I have it! That and the Injuns stuff is the 2 best releases of the year hands down!
Anyway, Mike's comments grinded me down for 3 days. I finally broke down and called Stevie.
So now The Faction are together again, sans-Adam. And you are
recording new material. Tell me about this. And who will have the pleasure of
releasing said material?
It looks like Sessions Records is gonna do it. I'm really stoked because this is the quality recording I've always wanted our fans to have of us. This will set the record straight.
Will there be more to come after, or is this a one-off thing?
We don't know. Hopefully we can do something else after?
What will it take to get The Faction, Los O, and Drunk Injuns
to tour the states and give us old timers a reason to leave the house, and teach
the young punks what real punk rock is all about!
Funny you should ask. The three bands you mentioned may tour together, but not in the US.
I would pay a king's ransom to see that! Even though those injuns are scary looking mofo's. Not the US?! Where then?! Not the UK I hope. What happened to AUK? Fuck the UK is what i say!
Actually it's Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The German folks who have brought us over there twice in the last year are talking about the three bands going over there. I'd be into it. AUK!
That sucks! Well, sucks for me. How about those places, and Chicago?! I have no passport!
Oh yeah! My dad was from Chicago, and I have an aunt there. I love Chicago!
You can all sleep in my basement! There is plenty of pinball machines there to keep you busy.
Cool. It's on!
OK. when will this new recording be out?
Hopefully in February of 2003.
OK, any final comments?
All of us in the band are really stoked right now. We're getting
along pretty well, and have really been on a mission of sorts to produce quality
in the studio. I had quite a few truthful friends back when we were originally
doing this, and they all said that live, The Faction was really good, you know,
super tight, energetic, etc. But they also admitted that our recordings never
did us justice. We really want to put that behind us. We're a four piece now
with Stevie as the only guitar player, and it's sounding really good, really
good. All I need to do now is take voice lessons, haha! And hopefully we can
get out to Chicago for a gig. I want to hang out with my friends out there again.
There's talk of a tour in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with Los Olvidados
and the Drunk Injuns, like I mentioned, and some friends in Buenos Aires are
looking to get us down to Argentina for a few gigs there. I heard the new Tony
Hawk game just came out (it features "Skate and Destroy"!), and we're playing
the TransWorld Skateboarding Magazine 20th Anniversary party at the Vans Park
in Orange County next weekend, so we're super busy. We just got e-mail from
one of the guys in Fu Manchu! He said he's been a fan forever and was really
stoked we are back!? But uh, I really want to come out to Chicago and Milwaukee
and do some sets out there. That would be cherry!
is Gone 7"
IM Records F001
Songs: Room 101, Eternal Plan, Black Balled, Yesterday is Gone,
Bullets Are Faster than Words
Notes: Most copies had a regular printed sleeve and came
with a sticker (there were different stickers), they didn't print enough
copies of it so Steve had a couple hundred sleeves printed on envelopes.
This sleeve is oversized and the "sticker inside" text is missing from the
IM Records TF 500
1st pressing: 1000 black vinyl
2nd pressing: 1000 pressed on various colors: red, blue,
yellow, green, purple, brown swirl
3rd pressing: 1000 white vinyl
Songs: Being Watched, Lost in Space, Skate and Destroy,
Change of Pace, Running Amok, Why Save the Whales?, Fast Food Diet, Not
Mine, Since I Was a Kid, Beyond the Mirror.
Notes: Came with poster/lyric sheet
||Corpse in Disguise 7"
IM Records TF 003
Songs: Corpse in Disguise, Friends and Enemies, 100 Years War,
Skate and Destroy(live).
||Dark Room 12" EP
IM Records TF 004
1st pressing: 3000 pressed with red labels
2nd pressing:2000 pressed with yellow labels
Songs: Dark Room, Let's Go Get Cokes, Terror in the Streets,
Deathless, Tongue like a Battering Ram, You Are Here.
Notes: All copies came with a lyric sheet
Thrash/Mystic Records MiniLP-01
1st pressing: black vinyl
2nd pressing: gray vinyl
Songs: I Decide for Me, My Generation, Kids, Tenebrae,
California Dreamin', Kids
Notes: Two of the song titles were incorrectly listed on
both the cover and labels. The band never saw a dime for this release nor
did they get their master tape back, therefore these songs were lifted from
the vinyl for the Collection CD. It is unknown how many of each pressing
were made, only Doug Moody would know for sure, but there must be a lot
less of the gray vinyl ones as they never come up, in fact the only two
I have ever seen are the one I own, and the one I just gave to Gavin O'
Goldenrod Records GR33
CD only release
Songs:Tongue Like a Battering Ram, Friends and Enemies, The Kids
Are the Future, Dark Room, Being Watched, Corpse in Disguise, Let's Go Get
Cokes, Why Save the Whales?, Yesterday is Gone, 100 Years War, I Decide
For Me, Fast Food Dietm California Dreamin', Lost in Space, Room 101, Skate
and Destroy, Deathless, Boredom Awaits, Your Generation, Not Mine, Bullets
are Faster than Words, Since I Was a Kid, Pegged for Life, Skate Harassment
(live at the Tool & Die), Spineless Majority (live at KFJC), Beyond the
Mirror (live at CBGB's), Demons (live at CBGB's), Tenebrae
Notes: This has been reissued on Beer City Records with
red ink in the place of blue on the cover and it does not come with the
||Collection 2: Uncollectable CD
AVD Records CD 011
Songs: You Are Here, Terror in the Streets, A U.K., Eternal Plan,
Black Balled, Demons, Change of Pace, Running Amok, Beyond the Mirror, It
Makes Me Sick (demo), Louie Louie (demo), Me (demo), Interview on KFJC,
Guitar Gets Broken in Michigan, No Morals (Adam Bomb demo), Punk Party (demo),
The Faction Disc Jockies on KFJC, Tongue Like a Battering Ram*, Being Watched*,
Corpse in Disguise*, Pegged for Life*, Not Mine*, Skate and Destroy*, Deathless*,
Dark Room*, Why Save the Whales*, I Decide for Me*
Notes: Odds and ends that didn't make the first collection.
Songs marked with a * were from the Pegged for Live video.
||Faction/2 Cents Worth Split 7"
AVD Records AVD 7001
500 pressed, numbered on red vinyl
Song: Let's Go Get Cokes (live)
Notes: AVD records is Adam's current label. There are still
copies available for sale.
||From the Valley
Within Compilation 7"
Lost Records LR-1
Songs: Pegged for Life, The Demons
Notes: This was put out by Steve Caballero on his own label.
The records were hand numbered on the inner sleeve. Comes with an insert.
Cassette only release
Songs: A.U.K., Boredom Awaits
and Barking Trucks: Skate Rock Volume 2 LP
Song: Friends and Enemies
Notes: This was released on LP and cassette and is one
of three volumes to be released on vinyl, all others were cassette only.
||Do You Remember Rock and Roll Compilation LP
IM Records IM 008
Songs: Beyond the Mirror (live), Spineless Majority (live)
Notes: Copies of this comp without a sleeve also came included
in the limited edition version of The Living End - The Picture That Came
With the Frame LP. The Living End was one of Adam's post-Faction bands.
||Steve Caballero Bandology CD
Songs: Being Watched, Skate and Destroy, I decide for Me, Accelerate
Notes: This is a compilation of bands Steve Caballero has
been in. Features The Faction, Odd Man Out, Shovelhead, and Soda. CD only
release released by Steve and will be reissued on Sessions Records in 2003.